Monday, September 03, 2007

Arrivederci & buon fortunato, Mike!

About a year ago, Susan and I were at the Papaveri Papere bar here in Nicolosi one weekend morning and we noticed a blonde man who was obviously an American waiting politely for his turn. (That's how we knew he was American, along with his clothes, shoes, blonde hair, military haircut, stance, and no sunglasses.) When he finally turned around, Susan beckoned to him and we got him to come over and talk to us. This is how we met Mike Rice.

Soon Mike met our entire "breakfast club" and became a regular. Much to my surprise, he was here on active duty with the US Navy. The surprise was that he lived way up here on the volcano, at least 20-25 miles from his workplace. Most military members live much closer, most right on base. So, we knew he must be really okay if he chose to live up here with "the mountain people," as we civilians sometimes call ourselves.

We learned that Mike had joined the Navy late in life (we are not really sure why) and that he had been in for eleven years. He lived alone and had been working for twenty years or so restoring a 1967 pickup truck for a hobby. Yes, the government shipped it over here! I never actually saw this famous truck, but I heard a lot about it. A few months after meeting Mike, he announced that his girlfriend Ann, from the Phillipines, was coming for an extended visit. And so we had the pleasure of having Ann become part of our group during two extended stays here in Sicily. She even took care of Pete and Repeat for me this summer!

Throughout the year, Mike (and Ann when she was here) joined us on outings, eatings, and Sunday morning coffee club. Our favorite saying of Mike's followed another memorable meal at Lisa's: "Just another occasion to totally stuff myself!" And our favorite photo of Mike is Jacque with her hand on his suddenly gigantic belly after an eating extravaganza at Trattoria Incognito. (Usually he is not only very slim, but also very modest in his eating and drinking!)

Now, Mike is going to sail off into the sunset, literally. He has had more than enough of the Navy. He and Ann are going to the Pacific to find a nice island, far, far away from "civilization" and just live there, for as long they want. We hope it for happily every after. (Get settled and we will all join you to play Gilligan's Island!)

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